D’Arcy Carden on the Art of Imitating Her Good Place Co-Stars

Whitney Friedlander
Vulture

The past few years have been particularly good ones for D’Arcy Carden, who’s stolen scenes on some of the most highly regarded comedies of the Peak TV era. But you haven’t truly made it in Hollywood until you’ve played multiple characters in a single episode of television (just ask Tatiana Maslany).

That’s precisely what Carden does on Thursday’s midseason finale of The Good Place, in which she plays information delivery vessel Janet, who sucks the four humans she’s protecting into her void to spare them from the onslaught of demons ready to drag them into the Bad Place’s torture chambers. In doing so, she turns the quartet (Kristen Bell’s Eleanor, William Jackson Harper’s Chidi, Jameela Jamil’s Tahani, and Manny Jacinto’s Jason) into visual replicas of herself. For those keeping score at home, series creator Michael Schur told Vulture and other journalists earlier this week that this puts Carden’s screen-time at “well north of 40 minutes” in an episode that’s less than 22 minutes long.

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Vulture spoke with the woman of the half-hour to talk about imitating her co-stars without mocking them, her work on Broad City and Barry, and what’s up with that photo she tweeted of her and Parks and Recreation’s Li’l Sebastian.

How much of your co-stars’ mannerisms were you aware of before you started filming? It’s one thing to work with someone, it’s another thing to obsessively watch them.
I don’t know how much it ended up changing. I would say, probably, if I didn’t know I was doing this episode and if Mike just said, “Do an impression of Tahani right now,” it probably would end up looking about the same as what is on the screen, because I now have worked with them for so long and I’m a fan of them as actors and I’m a fan of the show.

You don’t want to mock them.
I know, yeah. Jason was hard with that one. Manny plays such a goofy character that I was like, “How far do I push this?”

Speaking of that character, your actual husband’s name is Jason. That’s got to be kind of weird since Janet was married to, and is still in love with, Good Place Jason.
It is weird. So, my husband’s name is Jason. My on-screen former husband’s name is Jason, and then my on-screen ex-boyfriend’s real name is Jason; Jason Mantzoukas plays Derek.

For some reason, it doesn’t trip me up too much. But it definitely is funny when there’s a lot of people who like the show that do like Jason and Janet together. It’s always funny to see a tweet or whatever [saying], “Do you love Jason?”

In the wedding scene in season one, I had to say, “I take Jason to be my husband.” I’ve done this before.

People always compare Janet to AIs like Siri and Alexa, but I tend to think of Flo the Progressive lady. Especially in this episode, because of the set’s white background.
Right. I know that Kirston Mann, the costume designer, really drew inspiration from ’60s flight attendants. That sort of perfect little silhouette with the perfectly fitted [uniforms].

Have you and Good Place writer Megan Amram talked about another season of her Emmy-nominated web series, An Emmy for Megan? I know she wants a second season (and a Grammy Award), but you killed her at the end of last season.
I did kill her. I mean, we haven’t talked about it, but I’ll kill her again.

Schur has a history of casting actors he likes on his other shows.
I know he absolutely hates this, but what is it? What are people saying? Schurniverse?

So, has there been any talk about you guest starring on his and Dan Goor’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine?
I hope there has … I will do whatever Mike wants forever. He is truly one of the best and most genius people I’ve ever worked with and I would be happy to do anything with him.

You tweeted a photo of you as Janet with Parks and Rec’s Li’l Sebastian. We think we spotted him in a November episode. But is there more to come?
I’ve never said no comment before. What if I said no comment?

Well, that’s essentially commenting.
I know.

You’re also returning to Comedy Central’s Broad City for its final season. Rumor has it that your character, Soulstice instructor Gemma, um … no longer works there. What can you say about going back?
I’m in one episode. I can just tell you that, I mean … I love those girls so deeply. I will say that the Broad City finale is everything you have ever wanted. If you love that show, you will love the finale and this season is just so fun.

And you’re in HBO’s Barry. Do you know much about what’s happening in season two?
It’s just as dark and just as funny as season one.

Can you even believe I get to be a part of these three shows that are my absolute favorite shows? I can’t even believe it. I would be devouring Barry if I was not on it. I still do, but it’s such a joy to get to read these scripts early and get to be on the set. I can’t even explain how lucky I feel.

This might be a meta question, but how does it feel to be a successful actor playing a struggling actor on Barry?
Even hearing you say “successful actor,” I’m like, “Well, but, I’m not …”

I’ve been doing this since forever and ever, but you only saw me a few years ago for the first time. So, the struggling actor part of Barry is so close to who I am that it doesn’t feel [odd]. Things about playing that character feel meta, for sure — being in an acting class and talking about acting and all that — but I still feel very much like [I’m] scrappy and scraping by. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind couple of years, but I’m still feeling very much like Natalie in the acting class.

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